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Orders of the Day — Treaty of Peace [Expenses].

– in the House of Commons on 18th July 1919.

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Resolution reported, That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of Expenses incurred under any Act of the present Session for carrying into effect the Treaty of Peace between His Majesty and certain other Powers.

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution. I gave an undertaking at an earlier hour this morning when the Resolution passed the Committee stage that I would make a brief statement to the House as to the purposes for which the money will be required. The Bill, following the precedent of the Anglo-French Convention Act, 1904, provides that any expenses incurred in carrying the Treaty into effect shall be defrayed out of moneys to be provided by Parliament. The chief items of expenditure that will arise will be: (1) The British proportion of the expenses of the Secretariat of the League of Nations; (2) the salaries of the British members of the several Boundary Commissions to be setup under the Treaty; (3) if the clearing office system is adopted by the Government, the expenses of the staff of the British clearing house so far as they are not met out of the fees and other receipts of the office; and (4) the remuneration of the British members of the Mixed Arbitral Tribunal and of one-half of the remuneration of the President and expenses of each Arbitral Tribunal. It is impossible, of course, to make any estimate of the sum that may be involved, but those are the various heads under which money may be required. The Bill, as the House is aware, is a short Bill of one Clause, which will no doubt be debated at length on Monday. I hope with that explanation that the House will be willing to agree to the Report stage of the Resolution.

Photo of Mr James Hogge Mr James Hogge , Edinburgh East

One understands the difficulty of the Government in providing any thing like an approximate account of the money that will be required. My hon. Friend has been good enough to put in the Vote Office a typewritten note of the chief items of expenditure, and they are divided under four heads. The first deals with the British proportion of the expenses of the secretariat of the League of Nations. Is my hon. Friend quite sure that he can not give us any idea of the amount of money that will be involved? After all, the salary of a Cabinet Minister is £5,000, and the cost of his Department is easily ascertained. I should hare thought, in view of the experience that my hon. Friend has had at the Treasury, that he would have been able to say how much approximately the Foreign Office would cost. It is quite fair, and I am willing to believe that the hon. Gentleman cannot give a full approximate account, but this typewritten note is too scanty. No. 2 deals with the salaries of the British members and staff of the Boundary Commissions to be set up under the Treaty. There is no reason at all why a minimum sum should not be put down there. As I reminded my hon. Friend a moment ago, the salary of a Cabinet Minister is £5,000. Other Ministers who are very hardly worked, such as the Secretary for Scotland or the Minister of Pensions

Photo of Mr James Hogge Mr James Hogge , Edinburgh East

Or, as my hon. Friend reminds mo, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury—who works harder than all the other Ministers in the Government out together—get much less. He is paid inadequately for his work. But, after all, I should have thought that my hon. Friend could have said that the salaries of the British Boundary Commissioners should be limited to a minimum of, say, "x" pounds. I am not worrying about the precise amount, because these positions are dignified positions, and we do not want to quarrel about the exact sum of money, but I should have thought it could have been said that in any event those British members of the Boundary Commissions should not be paid more than, say, the head of the Railway Commission or other similar appointments under the British Service. One feels, and I am sure my hon. Friend will agree, that it is very difficult to criticise a salary in this House after a man has been appointed. It is a very different thing if you say that the salary is not to exceed a certain sum, but if, as sometimes happens, somebody—perhaps a Member of this House—is actually appointed, it is very difficult and delicate to discuss such matters in the House of Commons afterwards.

I do not know whether many Members of the House have got this typewritten copy—it is not even printed, but I can quite understand the reason for that. It consists of about fifteen or twenty lines, in which we are given practically no information. I should have thought that under the No. 2 heading, at any rate, the salaries of the Boundary Commissioners, whoever they may be, ought to be fixed at some sum, and that we ought not to be called upon to make our criticisms after the Commission has been set up. No. 3 provides, if the clearing office system is adopted by the Government, for the expenses of the staff of the British clearing House, so far as they are not met out of fees and other receipts of the office; and there is a reference to Paragraph 15 of the Annex to Section II. of Part X., which I do not understand—I have not had time to look it up—but, presumably, it is purely technical, and as whatever remuneration is derived from that Section depends entirely upon the receipt of fees, we shall not be involved in any further expense in regard to it. No. 4 deals with the remuneration of the British member of the Mixed Arbitral Tribunal, and with one-half of the remuneration of the President and expenses of each Arbitral Tribunal. I can quite understand that you cannot fix in the British House of Commons the remuneration of the President, who will be an Inter-Allied official; but I should have thought it would have been possible to state that the remuneration of the British member should not, at any rate, be more than the salary of the Prime Minister of this country. The Prime Minister of this country, whoever he happens to be for the moment, is not well paid, and if he has to retire from his office there is no provision in the way of pension, as there is in the case of the Lord Chancellor of the House of Lords. If, therefore, we can get a public man of the type of our present Prime Minister, or of the Prime Ministers who have preceded him, to do the colossal work of this country for £5,000 a year, I think we ought to put some limit upon the remuneration of the British members of these mixed Arbitral Tribu- nals. As I have said, I quite realise that my hon. Friend is to a certain extent in the air—so far as those expenses are concerned, and I feel a certain amount of diffidence in pressing him with regard to particular sums; but I should like him and the Government to understand that the House of Commons does resent the discussion of the remuneration of a man after he has been appointed to a post. It would be very much better if, before any names or any qualifications attached to those names are considered, my hon. Friend would at any rate assure the House that, so far as the remuneration of these people is concerned, it shall not exceed the average remuneration of British Ministers holding similar positions in this country.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

I do not wish in any way to obstruct, because I think that the sooner this money begins to do its work the better; but I should like to add my protest to that of my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh as to the way in which we have been treated over this Vote. When I was in the Vote Office a short time ago I asked for the details—the Papers or the Bill, or whatever it might be — regarding these expenses, and, after a good deal of search, I was told that they were not there; and it was only by the courtesy of the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Dr. Murray) that I obtained the copy which I hold in my hand. I think that that is not treating us at all fairly. Particularly, I should like to ask what check we are going to have on these expenses? I will give one instance. At the present moment the Hotel Majestic in Paris—I heard this in another place yesterday—has been evacuated by the staff of the Peace Delegation, and is now occupied by the staff of the Supreme Economic Council. The Hotel Majestic was, I believe, taken over without fixing the rent, and I have not been able to discover what sums are being paid in respect of it. As the work of the Supreme Economic Council is intimately connected with the League of Nations secretariat, I understand that we are now asked to vote money for, not the past, but the future expenses of the Hotel Majestic. The Supreme Economic Council obviously includes members belonging to other nations, and one would like to know how much of the expenses we are meeting and how much is being met by other nations. I think we ought to watch all expenditure at the present time, and the way in which money has been poured out in Paris on the Peace Conference is an open scandal. One does not in any way wish to stint our representatives; we wish them to keep up the dignity of the Empire in Paris; but nevertheless the wastage on several big hotels in the most expensive part of Paris, redundant staffs, redundant motor cars, and improper use of the same motor cars, is the talk of official circles in this country. Our only safeguard lies in some better system of bringing such matters before the House and leaving them open to criticism before they receive our vote. Of course, I quite realise that it was not known how long the Peace negotiations would take, and that the whole thing was done in a hurry without any time to haggle over small sums. Nevertheless we ought to know where we are now, and we have a right to some check on the expenditure in connection with the future carrying out of these Commissions. A tremendous lot of money can be spent unnecessarily, as we know by past experience, on redundant staffs in connection with Boundary Commissions, on expenses in entertaining, and so on, in connection therewith, which to some extent perhaps are necessary, but which ought to be subject to some check in the interests of the public purse; and I feel I must add my protest to that of my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh at the way we are treated on this very important matter. This House has had little or no control over the expenditure in Paris, and it has been extremely difficult to get information about it. I hope T shall have the support of this House in asking for some further information, if it can be given, by the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, whom I am very glad to see on the Front Bench.

Photo of Colonel Charles Yate Colonel Charles Yate , Melton

I have been a Boundary Commissioner during several years of my life in various parts of the world, and I cannot possibly agree with the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken, that there has been great waste of money in connection with such Commissions. Boundary Commissioners must be experts, and it is necessary that such men should be given adequate salaries. I cordially support the Vote for the money for these expenses which were necessarily entailed upon us by the Peace Treaty.

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

With the permission of the House, I should like to say just one word in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr Hogge). His comment was perfectly fair. The answer, of course, is that a general Financial Resolution of this nature in a Bill of this kind cannot give him all the details he requires. The phrase he used that the expenditure is "in the air" is a perfectly correct one, because the bulk of the expenditure depends on the one fact, whether or not the League of Nations ever becomes a living creature. If it does not, the amount of expenditure on this account will be trifling. If it does, then whatever details may have to come before the country for expenditure will have to be presented, as every other detail in connection with these matters will have to be presented, in the form of regular estimates, and come before the House.

Photo of Mr James Hogge Mr James Hogge , Edinburgh East

As a matter of fact, there is one official now appointed, Sir Eric Drummond. He must be paid a salary. Who is paying him and on what authority?

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

There will be a Vote for that I think among the Supplementary Votes. It was essential, as my hon. Friend will see, to get. someone for the time being to act as Secretary to the League of Nations, which is not yet in existence. Of course, if the League of Nations should not come into existence, Sir Eric Drummond's work will fall out. If the League of Nations does come into existence, he will then be confirmed in that work, and in due course his salary will come before the House on an Estimate, when the House will have an opportunity of criticising the appointment and the salary. I am afraid, with all respect to my hon. Friend, that it would have been quite impossible to give him any estimate of figures at all. It was for that reason that, at first, I had not contemplated issuing a White Paper on the subject. Complaint has been made about the very informal shape this Paper has taken. I had a discussion with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) last night, and we both came to the conclusion that it was very desirable, even where it is impossible to give any estimate of figures, that a document should be circulated stating the reasons why it was impossible and the purposes for which the money would be required. I hope that on all future occasions where Resolutions of this kind are brought in and where it is impossible to make an estimate, I shall present a properly printed document of the same nature as this one, which I have had typewritten.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

Will the hon. Gentleman reply to the query as to the expenses of the Supreme Economic Council?

Photo of Mr Stanley Baldwin Mr Stanley Baldwin , Bewdley

I should be quite prepared to do it if it were in order; but that has nothing whatever to do with this Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.